All New X-men #29 – Comic Review

The battle between the future Brotherhood and X-men reaches a conclusion, but a large part of this comic puts together a discussion about good and evil. All New X-men #29 offers:

  • Artwork with great action, and strong colour
  • Good  moments for several main characters
  • A good and evil discussion: the comic raises ideas about the difference between good and evil

Force, movement, and lines of action are clearly visible from scenes with X-23, who slashes through the air. Bright purple and red colour dominate this comic.

One pivotal strike from X-23 shows off a powerful, downward line of action. Xavier can’t stand up to her assault. She cuts through the air with claws that leave trails. It’s easy to follow the action from panel to panel with these movements.

Psychic power explodes throughout this comic book. Xavier Jr.’s power is light blue, and icy. Jean Grey, in full flight, unleashes purple light. Pages of this comic are filled with it. When the light is not purple, it’s dark shades of red. This colour represents anger. In this case, It’s X-23’s rage. She was attacked and left in the snow. She’s angry. Raze, like Xavier, catches up with her in these scenes.

Emma Frost receives some development, while Cyclops leads the team, taking charge of the X-men’s ethical decisions. Deadpool also has some good moments.

Emma Frost has a scene with excellent dialogue. She talks to Jean Grey about the events of Battle of the Atom, specifically, about Xorn, and what happens to Grey if she continues to live her life in the present, never returning to the moment in the past she and the other X-men left.

Deadpool has a few hilarious moments. Iceman is less animated than he has been in previous issues.

Scott Summers also has a moment of good dialogue, and lays down a value for the X-men to follow. Cyclops leads the team, which impresses, considering his character has been running since the events of Avengers Vs X-Men. A moment towards the end of the issue references Avengers Vs X-Men. Summers recollects his actions under the power of the phoenix force.

The comic brings an interesting value discussion to light. It draws a line between good and evil – the X-men, and the Brotherhood – The X-men consistently state that there are lines they will not cross, which separate them from their enemies.

A large part of this comic puts together a discussion about good and evil. The comic’s values line up with big, broad statements about good and evil summarised by quotes from philosophers like Nietzsche:

“He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

When the psychic Stepford cuckoos confront Xavier alongside Jean Grey, they comment that Xavier is a reminder of what happens when they “let themselves slip”. Abuse of their talents leads to becoming like Xavier. Later, Molly Hayes tries to attack a defeated Raze. Beast tells her “Don’t be them”. Later, when facing the wounded Xavier, Scott Summers states “Today, your lesson is to be better than your enemies”.

When faced with a defeated Brotherhood, the X-men will not respond using their enemies methods. The comic has that value: a distinction between good and evil.

One popular culture references is a quote from the Angel. When asking Laura out on a date to a Bob Evans restaurant, Warren quotes a Superman movie saying “Well, I’ll do most of the flying”

All New X-men #29 is published by Marvel Comics. ($3.99 USD). Brian Michael Bendis (W.) Stuart Immonen (A.) Wade Von Grawbadger (I.) Marte Gracia with Jason Keith (C.) VC’s Cory Petit (L.) Cover Artwork by Immonen, Grawbadger, and Gracia.

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All New X-men #28 – Comic Review

The X-men face another catastrophe from the future. Building more layers onto an already complex time travel story, however, creates confusion. All New X-men #28 offers:

  • Artwork filled with detail
  • Time Travel exploration
  • Exploration of Psychic powers and their effects
  • Collected into a graphic novel, All New X-men would tell a sweeping time travel story

Capturing fine details, the comic sets effective scenes, and employs good character body language. Both quiet scenes and loud scenes have a sense of silence and volume respectively. Colour choices are strong here.

In the distant future, Dr. Hank McCoy ruffles his blue fur. He hangs from the ceiling of his quiet laboratory, scrawling chalk notes across a blackboard. The attention to detail here is strong. Easter eggs from X-men history are dotted within the complex notes.

The artwork establishes McCoy’s impossible puzzle. He brought young X-men from the past into the present day. Now, in an alternate future he created after those events, he cannot solve the problem. The young X-men were not returned to the moment in time they left, and reality broke as a result.

In a powerful flash forward to the future, The X-men and the brotherhood featured in Battle of the Atom clash. In two pages, a large scale artwork depicts older, wiser X-men facing off against an upstart brotherhood. Pale blue and purple energies glow, while swords shine through the air.

Dialogue centres around two brothers: Xavier junior, and Raze. Xavier’s struggle to make the X-men understand how badly his father, Charles Xavier, was treated forms the key conflict of the comic book.

There are some hilarious comments in the dialogue featured across the opening scenes. Old Beast, in the far future, meets young Xavier Junior and Raze – founders of the new, upstart brotherhood. These young men are in fact brothers. Their mother is the blue, shape-shifting Mystique. Their fathers are Charles Xavier and Wolverine respectively.

Xavier meeting with young Jean Grey presents a chance to bring out his backstory. It’s a major point of conflict. His father died fostering the X-men despite all the efforts Charles Xavier delivered in growing, expanding, and safeguarding the X-men. He references the events of  Avengers Vs. X-men. His rage grows when he outlines to Jean exactly how frustrated he is that his father’s legacy, house, and fortune where not retained or cared for by the X-men.

His Brother Raze is plainly a terrible person. It comes across in the artworks depiction of his body language, and the word choice that creates his character voice.

Exploring layers upon layers of time travel, the question this raises is how far can space, time, and the history of the Marvel Universe be pushed?

The comic overflows with time travel mechanics. And layering more time travel atop the already teetering stack of time travel events in All New X-men creates confusion. There are not many deep themes here. Moreover, the comic explores the effects of psychic powers, and time travel.

The artwork is rich in colour and detail. Character’s speak in their own unique voices. Threats from an alternate future are interesting. The time travel mechanics however, are confusing.

Xavier Junior and Raze decide to travel back in time to initially confront the X-men: if they fail to reach their goal, they will send a message to themselves moments before they left, which allows them to build a new plan, and try again.

This causes a paradox: how can they travel back and try a different approach if they now no longer went into the past initially, failed to reach their goal, and sent a message to their future selves?

The paradox that emerges pushes an already strained timeline. Is this pushing too hard on space and time in the Marvel Universe?

Two popular culture references appear. When asked who his father is, Raze states it is “Batman”. When examining his timeline for gaps, Dr.McCoy mentions the Age of Apocalypse, and the Age of Ultron in.

All New X-men #21 is published by Marvel Comics. ($3.99 USD). Brian Michael Bendis (W.) Stuart Immonen (A.) Wade Von Grawbadger (I.) Marte Gracia (C.) VC’s Cory Petit (L.) Cover Artwork by Immonen, Grawbadger, and Gracia.

All New X-men #21 – Comic Review

What All New X-Men #21 Offers

With some reference to real world discrimination, All New X-men #21 shows off captivating art while telling a story about minorities and religion.
The comic would be particularly relevant for high school and college classes examining discrimination themes, and religion. New readers might find the references to other Marvel comics confusing, however. All New X-men #21 offers:

  • Powerful artwork
  • Discrimination themes
  • An English resource
  • A Religious education resources
  • Collected into a graphic novel, All New X-men would act as a useful literacy resource

Cast

Jean Grey and X-23 are the two Marvel super heroes featured on the cover. The pair play a larger role in the plot compared to the other X-men. Kitty Pride also plays a key role. It’s the strong antagonists of the comic that drive the action forward.

William Stryker’s son intimidates and evangelises with his mutant-hating “purifiers”. These characters are Christian Fundamentalists – the Bible is literal to them, and they are critical of liberal values. Purifiers revile mutants.
That’s the narrative thrust of the story, and the source of conflict and themes. A minority group battles against influential, and well armed, fundamentalists.
Who is William Stryker? An evangelical entertainer and former solider, Stryker led a public, religious campaign depicting mutants as evil. This story arc appeared in the graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills (Marvel comics, 1982).

Art

In a Flashback scene, William Stryker appears, and gives a speech to a sold out music hall. It’s a link back to the Marvel graphic novel where he first appeared. William Stryker, decades ago, influenced the opinions of millions with his fervent bible readings.
He quotes from the book of Revelation. Without including spoilers, the artwork captures a sense of sound and volume. Looking at the art, you can hear Stryker’s voice over the public address system, shaking the room. The audience rumbles, roaring with applause, introducing energy to the art.
There’s only one fault – a character’s glasses disappear from their face between panels. This character is a doctor who promises Stryker that he can cure Stryker’s son
of illness. With the glasses missing, however, the revulsion the scientist expresses when William Stryker places a hand on his shoulder and utters “Let us pray” cuts deeper.

Themes, Ethics, Values

X-23 recently arrived in All New X-men #21 from a now concluded series called Avengers Arena. One of the themes of the Arena comic was the impact of reality television, with a Popular Culture reference to the Hunger Games. All New X-men summarises this theme: Stryker’s son states: “You were on a reality show. You were popcorn for morons”. Reality television is derided here, which aligns with themes brought up by Avengers Arena, and Hunger Games themes.
The larger themes brought out are religion, fundamentalism, and discrimination. Discord between religious and scientific women and men feature to some extent.
Early in the issue, a doctor says to Stryker Senior: “Quite a show business machine you’ve build yourself” implying the Stryker is using faith and religion to sell support for his anti-minority cause, manipulating his audience. The man (a scientist) shrinks away when Styker asks him to pray.
When confronted with the possibility of killing the X-men, one of the Purifiers stops Stryker’s son acting, and asks: “Is there someone we could talk to about this? Someone smarter than us?” This depicts the purifiers are fearful, lacking in conviction and intelligence.
Later, another scientist remarks to Stryker’s son “We sell you our best weapons, and you do what you think you need to do.” The scientist, who works for the organisation called AIM (mentioned in Iron Man 3), clearly has little respect for Stryker’s beliefs (A small clash between science and religion).
All three quotes demonstrate the argument against fundamentalist religion. It’s an argument X-men comics are known for. The purifiers are unintelligent, manipulative, carry weapons, and “do what they think they need to do” rather than carrying out a legitimate belief. Fundamental and “pure” approaches to religion are a problem: that’s the key ethic of the comic.

The X-men are a minority targeted and discriminated against by hateful and manipulative religious groups. They fight back, and the comic captures the push against discrimination.

All New X-men #21 is published by Marvel Comics. ($3.99 USD). Brian Michael Bendis (W.) Brandon Peterson (A.) Israel Silva (C.A.) Brent Anderson, with James Campbell (A.) Cory Petit (L.) Cover Artwork by Brandon Peterson.

All New X-men #15 – Comics Review

All New X-Men #15: Jean Grey and the Beast?!

(Some spoilers for Issue #15 of All New X-men follow in the review below)

Iceman is flirting with a girl around his age he met at a carnival. Her ice cream starts to melt, and precipitously dips toward the ground. Using his abilities, he chills it, saving the ice cream. A teenage boy hanging out with them stops and stares: “You’re a mutant?” he says, before walking away, fists clenched. Another girl remarks it’s a shame he isn’t more progressive. Despite the efforts of Marvel superheroes, and the changes observed in the respect and equality garnered by minority groups in the real world, it seems mutants will always be feared and hated in Marvel Comics.

What this comic book provides is an insight into characters who don’t hate and fear mutants. Characters who are supportive, or neutral toward mutation and its consequences. Several of the characters in this comic are impressed by Scott Summers and Iceman’s abilities, rather than intimidated.

Art

Guest artists provide a good character artwork with some unusual background choices. At the carnival, rides, sideshows, and attractions are brought to life in a colourful style, which does result in characters looking younger than expected. The following panels have no detailed background – black, orange, and primary blue, yellow, and red colours fill the space behind characters. There’s some loss of depth, and no sense of space because of the missing backgrounds. While it was likely unplanned and unscripted, the rectangle backgrounds of colour could be compared to Mark Rothko’s abstract paintings of the 1960’s, which would be an ideal reference considering X-men comics were first published in the 1960’s. Other important features are the panel arrangements for Jean Grey’s scenes. Grids of six to eight panels capture moment to moment emotions – an effective art choice, which delivers some humor and tension.

Cast

Beast receives some particularly interesting development – with two versions of beast interacting, Jean Grey receives a unique perspective on his life. The older beast laments on missed oppurtunites from his youth. His youth, incidentally, is happening nearby him in an adjacent room, as the younger beast prepares for the future, studying his older self’s adventures. There are references to Jean Grey and the Phoenix, and Rachel Summers meets a younger Jean. Wolverine comments that other team members need to stop borrowing his cars, jeeps, and motorcycles

Themes, Ethics, Values.

The value of courage, and the ethics of overcoming boundaries appear in All New X-men #15. Several characters are faced with a boundary, and a decision whether to challenge it, or go along with what’s been planned for them. Jean Grey, Scott Summers (Cyclops), and Bobby Drake (Iceman) all make the choice to challenge the boundary, demonstrating courage in the face of intimidation. Psychology today writer Melanie Greenberg (Ph.D) compiled six attributes of courage with references to popular culture such as A Game of Thrones, The Wizard of OZ, and the Hobbit. The character’s actions correspond to some of these six attributes. Scott and Bobby show trepidation at leaving the X-men‘s school for a day trip to a carnival in an effort to enjoy themselves while they can, but do it anyway. Jean feels fear at confronting Beast after she figures out he has fallen in love with her. Despite her fear, she kisses him.

Pushing past boundaries, and breaking with traditions does live up the turbulent, 1960’s background the X-men were created under. Artist of the 1960’s rebelled against decades of imposed restraint and constraint – to mention Mark Rothko again, Rothko’s luminous, abstract rectangles polarised gallery visitors and audiences. Separating Jean Grey from Scott Summers represents a break in popular culture. Like Mark Rothko’s convention defying abstract work, the comic book is unafraid and undaunted to defy character connections set in stone by decades of X-men comics published by Marvel. It’s a brave statement, but whether this is a short term shock, or a lasting act of change, is another matter entirely.

 A bit more on All New X-men #15

A shocking story combined with interesting character tension, only let down in places by some unusual background choices. The dramatic results of time travel continue to challenge X-men comics of the past fifty years.

All New X-men #15 is published by Marvel Comics. $3.99 USD. Brian Michael Bendis (w.) David Lafuente (a.) Jim Campbell (c.) VC’s Cory Petit (l.)

Comics Review – All New X-Men #11

All New X-Men #11

Contained in one issue of an X-men comic is: a titanic clash between Jean Grey and the psychic, Stepford sisters.

Magneto proving why he’s the master of magnetism.

And Mystique carrying out some clever corporate espionage against Stark Industries.

There are so many great moments here, but I thought the best by far was a conversation between Jean Grey, and Kitty Pride. On a basketball court at night, Kitty helps a distraught and isolated Jean, who is dealing with feeling like a teenage outcast because of her psychic powers. At the same time, she knows that she and her friends are out of time, having traveled from the past to the present day. The good order of space and time in the Marvel universe is resting on her shoulders.

It’s good to see Spider-man‘s mantra “With great power comes great responsibility” here, as Kitty teaches Jean how to be responsible rather than forcing others to do as she wishes when she dose not get her way.

The comic then jumps to the Blackbird – the X-men‘s distinctly dark stealth jet. The team are working together, and tracking down Mystique.

Speaking of the blue shapeshifter, last month she impersonated SHEILD officer Maria Hill. This month, it’s a familiar character from Stark Industries.

Mystique also has a friend named Mastermind, who has the power to enchant and trick by crafting detailed illusions, mesmerising anyone she chooses. Mastermind has been using her power to frame the X-men, making it appear they are responsible for Mystique‘s crime and espionage spree.

The Art

The epic clash between Jean and the sisters explodes with purple and white energy that brings the page to life with it’s glaring, powerful colours. Thor makes a cameo appearance, and whips up a wind tunnel that is grey, dark, and scary to look at as the Blackbird is tossed around in the tumult.

Fine detail is loaded deliberately into the characters faces. One close shot of Dr. Hank McCoy puzzling over the effects of his time travel on space time in the Marvel universe is dramatic, and interesting. I was left guessing what ideas could possibly be on his mind.

A bit more on All New X-Men #11

The consequences of Mastermind impersonating the X-men starts to unfold here. Thor‘s appearance and subsequent assault is connected. I thought there was some humour in the Uncanny Avengers attacking the X-men without checking first if they had actually committed any crimes. It’s a good cliffhanger to end on. All New X-men has a lot to offer, with it’s strong characters and story. This is definitely a book for X-men fans to take a look at.

All New X-men #11 is published by Marvel Comics. Writer: Brian Michael Bendis. Pencils: Stuart Immonen. Inks: Wade von Grawbadger. Colours: Marte Garcia. Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit.

Comics Review – Five Weapons #1 and Uncanny X-men #2

I read through the second issue of the new Uncanny X-men, and the first issue of a new, limited series: Five Weapons. Uncanny X-men ramps up the stakes after laying down a solid introduction in issue one.

Five Weapons gets off to a good start, despite its smug protagonist – a new student at a school for young assassins pledges to use only his mind to defeat his opponents. I’ll begin with Five Weapons.

Five Weapons #1 of 5

After reading this issue multiple times, I decided that The hero of the story, Tyler Shainline, walks a fine line between intelligent and smug.

He makes some excellent deductions about several characters psychology, including their weaknesses.

Weather it is wise to use this knowledge to relentlessly taunt his dangerous opponents remains to be seen. At times, he almost resembles a bully.

The compelling and mysterious Nurse, however, comments on Shainline: “I like him, He’s a funny one”. She sums up the core of his character, and the comic’s tone effectively – it is packed with humor and lighthearted jabs

What becomes clear after re-reading is that this comic cleverly points out the power of observation. Seeing Tyler Shainline making deductions and seeing through displays of power and intimidation is interesting, and a good idea for a story told in the visual, comic medium.

With the visuals in mid, The art is sharp, and fun details are worked into the story – such as the easter egg of Cloud Strife’s buster sword from Final Fantasy 7 appearing in the background, and the details of the students school uniforms: a big, red target is printed on their white shirts. If you can stand a smug winner, Five weapons has great ideas for readers from writer and illustrator Jimmie Robinson.

Five Weapons #1 (of 5) is published by Image Comics.

Uncanny X-Men #2

A key event took place at the conclusion of issue one, which would be a spoiler to discuss further, plays out in a small way in issue #2. The small act leads to a cliffhanger for the issue, which is also a spoiler, but shows that this series is building up a serious momentum, and keeping a good pace.

Brian Michal Bendis‘ assigns one particular character a viewpoint for this issue, and deeply examines their thoughts and emotions. Emma Frost acts as the viewpoint character for this issue. Both the writing, lettering, and art work together seamlessly as the issue opens.

Emma Frost is reeling from sheer silence. She was one of five mutants who received additional power from a mythical creature called the Phoenix Force. After she returned to normal, Emma, just like Scott Summers (Cyclops), found that her mutant powers where severely reduced.

After hearing the random thoughts and secrets of everyone around her with telepathy, Emma is now angry and brooding about being forced out of the ongoing train of thought around her. All she hears is silence.

Chris Baccalo’s art is stunning for these scenes. The frozen mountaintop that acts as a backdrop takes advantage of the vast, negative spaces and blank, white snow to convey a feeling of deep emptiness, and above all, of silence.

Emma’s predicament is played out through the art. In a rage, she slams her fists into the snow – it’s potentially a representation of her self directed anger. She says “I have no one to blame but myself”, and with a name like “Frost”, it makes sense she would strike the snow.

And then Scott Summers appears. We have been informed by another character that he is weakened, and unstable. We see him as well dressed, and confident, however, in a white shirt and tie. The characters development is thorough Uncanny X-men, and it’s likely that Scott is better at hiding his weaknesses than others, being the team leader.

Further, while the new students talk about what it means to be different from the mainstream, and what it means to be a mutant, it becomes clear, that Summers is talking about something completely different. He uses the word “Revolution” often.

It’s still somewhat unclear where he is going with this. Surely, with his stuttering and unreliable powers, and a group of new students to teach, there will not be time to carry out a revolution against the status quo – a world where ordinary people attack mutants, and mutants have no choice but to run and hide.

Summers wants to move toward clashes with other figures and groups in the Marvel universe, and that might be the result if he continues on this path.

Uncanny X-men #2 is published by Marvel Comics

Comics Review – All New X-Men #4 and #5.

Brian Michael Bendis – using time travel – has brought the original X-men team from the past into the present day Marvel universe. Teenaged Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel, and Iceman, have now seen their own future. Issues #4 and #5 play out the affects of these revelations on the X-men, and their community. Some spoilers follow for readers who have not read Avengers VS. X-men.

All New X-men: #4 and #5. 

The fourth issue of Bendis’ new work on X-men is largely about Scott Summer’s reacting to seeing himself in the past. We are given a clear view of how far characters have moved from where they started. Young Iceman asks “I wonder what Scott [young Scott] thought of himself”. This questions forms the core of issue #4.  Beast brought the X-men from the past to the present to make him feel regret for his mistakes – and particularly, feel profound shame for his most recent, criminal act: killing Professor Charles Xavier using the Phoenix Force.

Scott also gets wound up by seeing Jean Grey, alive and as he knew her when they first went to school together. There is one small panel Stuart Immonen has penciled where young Scott and Jean look at each other after meeting Scott in the present: Jean stares at Scott in silence with contempt. In issue #5, we see contempt toward Scott grow at Wolverine’s school: rage at Scott’s crime is being unfairly redirected at his past self.

While on the subject of attacks on Scott Summers, even his younger self has taken a swing: back in issue #4, Jean attacks present day Scott, and knocking his visor off. Young Scott jumps in to counter his older self’s indiscriminate energy blasts. Issue #4’s colourist, Marte Garcia, captures the battle creating a powerful spash page that is like watching a fireworks show.

All New X-Men #4 is published by Marvel Entertainment.

What Scott thinks of himself forms the core of the story: specifically, how these attacks affect Scott Summer’s identity. Immonen constructs a key panel early in issue #4: sections of the characters faces, both the original X-men, Present day Scott, and Magneto, are arranged like a collage of photographs, positioned in neat rectangles to form a single face. the reader gets a sense of fractured identity from this image. If Scott is to continue to train new mutants and protect his community, he will need to keep his identity intact.

Whether this is possible remains to be seen. Their is a chance he has may be stuck on a path to becoming a new Magneto, instead of supporting Professor Xavier’s ideals.

Jean’s changing identity is also a key part of issue #5. Immonen provides a gift to the fans of X-men with a detailed splash page in issue #5: it’s the complete history of Jean Grey. Key moments from her career as a member of the X-men brought together. This time travel experience has forced Jean into an active leadership role. For a character who is consistently associated with the rise and fall of the phoenix force in the Marvel universe, it’s surprising and to see Jean Grey start a new direction in a new story.

All New X-men #5 is also published by Marvel Entertainment